Medical marijuana storefronts outlawed in Stillwater County

By: 
Mikaela Koski
Thursday, November 29, 2018

Starting next month, it will be illegal to operate a medical marijuana storefront in most of Stillwater County.

The county commissioners unanimously passed an ordinance on second reading last week that will prohibit medical marijuana storefronts and place limitations on the locations of dispensaries and registered premises.

THE ORDINANCE

The ordinance states that, “No individual, partnership, association, company, corporation, limited liability company, or organization operating a medical marijuana business shall operate a storefront business to provide marijuana or marijuana-infused products to registered cardholders within Stillwater County.”

It also prohibits dispensaries or registered premises from operating within 500 feet of the following locations: a school, post-secondary school, or pre-school; property owned or leased by a school district that is used for school-related purposes; a church, synagogue, or other place of worship; or a public park or recreation center.

As a statement from Stillwater County Attorney Nancy Rohde that was read at last week’s meeting explained, the ordinance is not intended to dictate to citizens how they can or cannot medically treat themselves.  Rather, it regulates the specifics regarding medical marijuana distribution centers.

The Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office is responsible for enforcing the regulations, and a violation “is a misdemeanor punishable by incarceration and/or fines,” according to the ordinance.

The restrictions do not apply to the city of Columbus, as the county government does not have the jurisdiction to impose such ordinances within the city.

The ordinance goes into effect on Thursday, Dec. 20.

STILLWATER COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH

A letter in support of the ordinance from Stillwater Billings Clinic Director of Community Health Services Natasha Sailer was read aloud at the meeting.

“Stillwater County Public Health understands, realizes, and does not dispute the value of medicinal marijuana for patients with certain debilitating chronic illnesses,” the letter begins.  “However, there are some major concerns that regard the public as a whole when we look to introduce storefronts into our communities.”

Sailer goes on to explain that there are less than 200 registered green card holders in Stillwater County, equaling less than 2 percent of the county’s population.  This leads to questions about how much a storefront would be used by county residents versus non-county residents, and the traffic it could bring into local communities, according to the letter.

She adds that, “It is of extreme importance to note that none of the medical providers, including physicians, nurse practitioners, or physician assistants, throughout Stillwater County are licensed to provide green cards to our current populations.”

The letter lists concerns regarding usage of medical marijuana products in a storefront, noting that “the safety of the pedestrians and roadway traffic is endangered with storefront usage, as we know mind altering substances such as marijuana (both medicinal and recreational) slow reaction times and ability to make decisions, impair coordination, distort perception, and can lead to memory loss and difficulty in problem-solving in individuals driving.”

Also discussed is the possible message that is sent by a storefront medical marijuana operation.  Sailer says that, “Exposure to the storefront can have the same mental impact to that of nicotine advertisements to children.”

The possibility of minors accessing medical marijuana for recreational purposes is another problem for Sailer.  She writes that, “we understand that (medical marijuana), when used appropriately, can have medicinal effects on those with debilitating illness, however, there are inherent risks associated with usage when an individual does not have an illness.”

“Until further research is performed and safety has been established by both the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration, we are unable to provide support to a storefront operation.

“With the storefronts being at the forefront of the community eye, the Stillwater County Health Department feels like there is too great of risk for the miseducation, misrepresentation, and the misuse of both medicinal marijuana as well as recreational marijuana that can adversely impact the health of our population,” the letter concludes.

PUBLIC COMMENTS

The only additional public comment was given by Columbus Superintendent Jeff Bermes.  He noted that while his school districts would not be affected by the ordinance, he believes students in school districts across the county deserve the protection provided by the ordinance.

In attendance at the meeting were four representatives of Stillwater Billings Clinic, one representative of the local pharmacy, and four representatives of Rosebud Remedies, a new medical marijuana storefront in Columbus.

There were also representatives from the Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office, Columbus Police Department, Columbus Fire Rescue, and the county’s Disaster and Emergency Services Department.

Category: